Sunday, April 22, 2007

Death of Cynicisim, Generation X, Trey Parker, memoirs, etc...

The nexus of connections, mentioned in the "Conservatives Protest Whitehouse Correspondent's dinner" post, is working again: was going to write about the excellent memoir "The Royal Nonesuch" by Glasgow Phillips...then found a blog post on "Slowpoke", the site attached to the somewhat entertaining comic strip, dealing with what Trey Parker of South Park considers to be radical, more on this later, which is significant because both of the South Park writers figure into Phillips' book in that they're friends of his. Then, was going to link it to more general Generation X literature, when the eXile, an expatriate publication out of Moscow, publishes an article by Mark Ames, co-author of "The eXile book" with Matt Taibbi, about the protest movement in Russia that breaks with the pox on both houses mentality, and I found myself reading "Radar" Magazine today...marketed towards people who know who Winona Ryder is.

First, all of these things, while related, are separate in their own way: "Royal Nonesuch" continues to be good, Trey Parkers' comments are still stupid, etc..

Anyways, here's what Parker said about being radical today:

""That's the most punk-rock thing you can do in L.A.: say 'George Bush is fucking awesome' instead of talking about how lame it is that he's fighting for oil," says Parker. "The only way to be more hardcore than everyone else is to tell the people who think they're the most hardcore that they're pussies, to go up to a tattooed, pierced vegan and say, 'Whatever, you tattooed faggot, you're a pierced faggot and whatever.' '' He looks very pleased with himself. "That's hardcore.""


Ignoring the stereotype of the pierced vegan and the fact that he feels that calling a person a faggot is a radical act, there are limits, unfortunately, to cynicism.

While it might be nice to pretend we live in a world where people can say "A pox on both your houses" without ramifications, in the end the war in Iraq is wrong, inequality is wrong, and the US government is ruled by some very scary people at the moment. So, as Michael Parenti wrote, reality is partisan.

Which is why Russian Protests: The Deleted Scenes by Mark Ames is worth reading in its entirety.

"A story like this is tricky to navigate. On the one hand, a suspiciously uniform party line has developed in every Western media outlet, framing Russia's nascent protest movement in laughably simplistic terms. If you didn't know Russia, you'd think by reading their stories or watching Fox or CNN that the protest movement, and its leaders, are the heirs to a long line of black-and-white hero-versus-villain scenarios, with good pro-democracy "idealists" on one side (plug in the anti-Communist protests of the late 1980s, and the color revolutions recently), and the evil authoritarian anti-Westerners on the other side, with their paramilitary attack dogs.

That's the narrative being sold to Western consumers, a fable that pushes the bullshit detector needle so far into the red zone that it screams for a major eXile debunking. But then you realize...if you dedicate your energy to debunking the current protest movement, which is so fragile and endangered, then what the fuck do you stand for? What are you defending? Semi-authoritarianism? A regime whose best feature is that it is merely less destructive than the Yeltsin regime? Stasis, backroom corruption, the rule of bureaucrats and goons with grotesquely expensive tastes? At what point do your expectations for Russia move beyond endlessly comparing Putin to the horrors of Yeltsin and the West's complicity in that giant, unrecognized crime? At what point do you start expecting more from Russia's political culture beyond just grievance and persecution mania, something positive beyond just, "Putin's not as bad as..."? What can be positively said about the current regime and the direction it is taking Russian civilization? What does Putin's civilization offer to the world?"

"That was where I started to see a difference. In spite of the violence and menace, the crowd had a large percentage of young, middle-class student bohemian types. They were genuinely interested and involved, they were brave, and emotional and genuinely outraged at even the mildest moves by the police and OMONtsy.

I've been going to protests in Russia ever since the shelling of the White House in '93. The rebels fighting Yeltsin had huge numbers, but they didn't represent the future of the country - for the most part, they were old. They were mostly those who had been left behind. This is one key reason the '93 rebellion lacked momentum after Yeltsin's massacre. It lacked that sense of inevitability that protest movements which appeal to the young and the intelligentsia have."


We, or at least I, will overlook "the eXile"'s sometime political columnist for the moment out of solidarity for bitterness, cynicism, and the breaking of such when it's appropriate...

Point is, the eXile, which is as hardcore as any of them, and Trey Parker's take represent two different interpretations of the same thing. On the one hand, cynicism to the point that you believe calling a kid a faggot because he has piercings is radical, on the other, cynicism that's aware of reality when it counts.

I'll write more about "The Royal Nonesuch" in another post.

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